Esther 2:19
And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, then Mordecai sat in the king's gate.
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(19) And when the virgins . . .—Here begins a fresh incident in the history, whose date we cannot fix precisely, save that it falls between the marriage of Esther and the twelfth year of Ahasuerus (Esther 3:7). The king “loved Esther above all the women,” but how the word “love “is degraded in this connection is seen by the fact that after she had been his wife certainly less (possibly much less) than five years, there takes place a second gathering of virgins (there is no article in the Hebrew), like the one previously mentioned (Esther 2:2). We should treat Esther 2:20 as parenthetical, and join Esther 2:21 closely to Esther 2:19.

Then Mordecai sat.—Translate, and Mordecai was sitting.

Esther 2:19. When the virgins were gathered together the second time — They in all probability were gathered together first in the provinces, and afterward in Susa, before they were taken into the house of the king’s chamberlain. The writer now goes back to what happened before Esther’s marriage. Then Mordecai sat in the king’s gate — It was ordered by Cyrus, as Xenophon informs us, Cyropaæd., lib. 8, that all persons whatever, who had any employment at court, should attend at the palace gate, where there was doubtless a proper waiting-place for their reception, that they might be in readiness whenever they were wanted or called for; and that this custom was afterward continued, we may learn from Herodotus, lib. 3. cap. 120. See Le Clerc. Mordecai has been thought by some to have been one of the porters of the royal palace; but it is probable he was an officer of higher rank. Poole thinks he was one of the king’s guard, or ministers, and that he had been advanced to this place by Esther’s favour, though without any discovery of her relation to him.

2:1-20 We see to what absurd practices those came, who were destitute of Divine revelation, and what need there was of the gospel of Christ, to purify men from the lusts of the flesh, and to bring them back to the original institution of marriage. Esther was preferred as queen. Those who suggest that Esther committed sin to come at this dignity, do not consider the custom of those times and countries. Every one that the king took was married to him, and was his wife, though of a lower rank. But how low is human nature sunk, when such as these are the leading pursuits and highest worldly happiness of men! Disappointment and vexation must follow; and he most wisely consults his enjoyment, even in this present life, who most exactly obeys the precepts of the Divine law. But let us turn to consider the wise and merciful providence of God, carrying on his deep but holy designs in the midst of all this. And let no change in our condition be a pretext for forgetting our duties to parents, or the friends who have stood in their place.When the virgins ... - Rather, "when virgins" etc. The words begin a new paragraph. There was a second collection of virgins (after that of Esther 2:8), and it was at the time of this second collection that Mordecai had the good fortune to save the king's life. 17. the king loved Esther above all the women—The choice fell on Esther, who found favor in the eyes of Ahasuerus. He elevated her to the dignity of chief wife, or queen. The other competitors had apartments assigned them in the royal harem, and were retained in the rank of secondary wives, of whom Oriental princes have a great number.

he set the royal crown upon her head—This consisted only of a purple ribbon, streaked with white, bound round the forehead. The nuptials were celebrated by a magnificent entertainment, and, in honor of the auspicious occasion, "he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king." The dotation of Persian queens consisted in consigning to them the revenue of certain cities, in various parts of the kingdom, for defraying their personal and domestic expenditure. Some of these imposts the king remitted or lessened at this time.

The second time; either,

1. When Esther, with others, were brought to the king’s house, as it was decreed above, Esther 2:2,3, which is called the second time, because they had taken this course once before, when Vashti was chosen queen. But there is no mention of any such former use; and by the manner of proposing it seems to have been a new project. Or,

2. Since Esther was declared queen; for though that point was determined, the king’s lust was not yet satisfied; and therefore being pleased with the former experiment, he desired another collection of virgins, whom he might make his concubines. And this seems best to agree with the following words. For it is not probable that Mordecai sat at the king’s gate till Esther was queen; for till then he only walked before the court of the women’s house, as is expressed, Esther 2:11.

Mordecai sat in the king’s gate; either,

1. Voluntarily, to learn the progress of affairs. Or rather,

2. By office, as one of the king’s guard or ministers; being advanced to this place by Esther’s favour, though without any discovery of her relation to him.

And when the virgins were gathered together the second time,.... Some think this second collection is that which was made when Esther was taken and brought to the keeper of the women, called the second, in reference to a former collection of them, made when Vashti was taken and made queen; but as there is no proof of any such collection then made, rather the case was this, such was the lust of the king, though he had a queen he loved, and a multitude of concubine's, yet a second collection of virgins was made for his gratification:

then Mordecai sat in the king's gate; or court, being an officer in it, promoted by the interest of Esther, though not as yet known to be a relation of her's: so in Xenophon (z) is used of the court of the king of Persia, as the Ottoman or Turkish court is now called the "Porte".

(z) Cyropaedia, l. 8. c. 2, 5, 11, 40.

And when the virgins were gathered together the {m} second time, then Mordecai sat in the king's gate.

(m) That is, at the marriage of Esther, which was the second marriage for the king.

19–23. Mordecai’s discovery of the plot against the king’s life

19. And when the virgins were gathered together the second time] Render, Now when maidens were being gathered together a second time. There is no article attached to the word ‘virgins’ in the original, and we have no means of knowing what kind of occasion is referred to here. It is merely a conjecture that the reference is to an effort made by the officials to supplant Esther in the king’s affections by introducing to his notice such as would better support their influence. The clause is omitted in the LXX.

then Mordecai sat etc.] better, perhaps, and when Mordecai was sitting etc. In this way we have another circumstantial clause, which is added to the first, and resumed in Esther 2:21. Mordecai occupied a place at the gate of the palace properly so called, or of that division of the women’s apartments which was assigned to the queen herself (see on Esther 2:3), that he might utilise any opportunity which presented itself of communicating with his ward. His occupation of this subordinate position is accounted for in Esther 2:20, which is of the nature of a parenthesis.

Verse 19. - When the virgins were gathered together. Rather, "When virgins." There is no article. The fact seems to be mentioned simply as furnishing a date, and we must suppose both that there was a second gathering, and that the time when it happened was generally known to the Jews and Persians. Then Mordecai sat, etc. The three verses, 19, 20, 21, hang together, and form a single sentence: "When virgins were gathered together a second time, and Mordecai was sitting in the king's gate - now Esther had not showed her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had charged her; for Esther did the command of Mordecai like as when she was brought up with him - in those days, while Mordecai sat in the king's gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, being of the number of them which kept the threshold, were wroth," etc. Esther 2:19Esther 2:19-23 relate the intervention of an incident of great importance in the subsequent development of the narrative. When virgins were for the second time gathered together, two courtiers were incensed with the king, and sought to lay hands upon him. This thing was known to Mordochai, who sat in the gate of the palace and kept up a constant communication with Esther even after she became queen, and by him communicated to her, that she might bring it to the knowledge of the king. The matter being investigated and found to have been truly reported, the offenders were punished, and an entry of the particulars made in the chronicles of the kingdom. The words "when virgins were assembled for the second time," which serve to define the time when the conspiracy of the two courtiers took place, as is obvious from the circumstance that ההם בּיּמים, Esther 2:21, refers to בת בּהקּבץ, Esther 2:19, are obscure. The obscurity lies in the fact that no reason for assembling virgins can be perceived, after the choice of Ahashverosh had fallen upon Esther. The sentence שׁנית בּתוּלות וּבהקּבץ unmistakeably corresponds with נערות וּבהקּבץ of v. 8. This was already rightly perceived by Grotius, who, however, wrongly infers: est ἐπάνοδος (retrogressio), referendum enim hoc ad illa quae supra, ii. 2. This is, however, not only incompatible with שׁנית, but also with the circumstance that, according to the correct understanding of the sentences in Esther 2:21 and Esther 2:22, Esther was then already queen, and Mordochai was sitting in the gate of the king's palace, and thence keeping up communication with her; while as long as Esther was in the women's house preparing for her interview with the king, under the guardianship of Hegai, he walked day by day before the court of the women's house (Esther 2:11). Still less admissible is the view of Drusius, received by Bertheau, that the gathering of the virgins for the second time is to be understood from the circumstance, that after going in to the king, they had to go into the second house of the women, under the stricter guardianship of Shaashgaz (Esther 2:14). For, being no longer בּתוּלות, but פּילגשׁים (Esther 2:14), their reception into the house of the concubines could not be called a second gathering together, since as virgins they were formerly in a different house. The only explanation of the שׁנית left us is the view, that even after the choice of Esther to be queen, a second gathering together of virgins actually took place; for this, as C. a Lapide remarks, is what the words undoubtedly declare. The matter itself was in accordance with the prevailing custom of polygamy, which kings carried to such an extent, that, as C. a Lapide points out, Solomon, e.g., had 700 wives and 300 concubines, i.e., secondarias uxores. From וּמרדּכי, Esther 2:19, onwards, explanatory circumstantial clauses follow: "The Mordochai sat in the king's gate" introduces the parenthetical sentence, "Esther had not yet showed her kindred and her people (comp. Esther 2:10), as Mordochai had charged her; for Esther did the commandment of Mordochai as when she was under his care;" i.e., Esther obeyed, after her elevation to be queen, the command of Mordochai not to make her Jewish descent known, as she had formerly done while she was yet his foster-daughter. אמנה, care, education, is a substantive derived from אמן.
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